February 20, 2017

The 4 principles every successful speaker must master

Just a quick video for you today to share these four principles (and give you a sneak peak at my upcoming retreat)!

February 17, 2017

5 Creative Ways to Spice up your Presentation: Guest Post by Alli Matson

Occasionally, a guest post comes across my desk that is too entertaining to pass up. Enjoy this contribution by Alli Matson of Presentation Wit.

We've all been there: you've worked on your presentation for days now and all of the information is perfect, but it lacks that final touch to really make it memorable. Here are five creative ways to spice up your presentation.


You can literally never go wrong with fire; never once has something bad happened as a result of fire. Pretty sure about that. Enthrall the pyromaniacs and pyronormals (100% a real word) alike with some advanced pyrotechnic displays. They won't be able to look away.


I feel like this one speaks for itself, but in case you've never met a puppy let me explain this to you. Puppers are tiny dogs that just want to lick your face (fun fact: puppies do that because they see you put food in your face hole and want to get at those crumbs) and love on you. I can't guarantee that anyone will pay attention to what you're saying, but they certainly will thank you.

Add some humor

Humor is a wonderful vehicle for the transferance of information, which is my fancy way of saying that people remember what makes them laugh. Think about it: I bet you'll never be able to forget my fact about puppers because I made it fun ;).

Have it catered 

Again, this one seems pretty self explanatory. Food is good. People love food. Food makes people happy. Plus, as the wise Niles Crane stated, "it can't be a crime if it's catered" (i.e. even if you bomb, people will remember the food and not your wretched performance).

Present in song

I can't think of a single person who wouldn't love to recieve their HR policy orientation in song. Songs, along with rhyming, make all information more interesting and memorable (how many songs do you have memorized vs college lectures?).

About Alli Matson:

Alli grew up in Seattle, WA and attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor for undergrad. She graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Studies, and uses her knowledge of social psychology and behavior in organizations to inform the content and delivery of her office humor. Presently, she lives in Cambridge, MA and participates in sketch comedy, improv, and musical improv at Improv Boston. You'll find her humor writing at Presentation Wit.

February 16, 2017

Want to sound smarter when speaking?

I received the following email the other day, and I thought it would be worth sharing my response with you, because it goes to the heart of my philosophy of public speaking.
"I am writing an article on ways to sound smarter when speaking.

I was interested in finding out if you had any advice or tips you could offer our readers. In particular, I wanted to see if you could provide insight into:
  • What is a key piece of advice you would offer to a person who is making a speech or presentation who wants to sound intelligent?
  • What is one of the most common mistakes speakers make that can make them come across as less intelligent?
  • Do you believe a speaker's posture and body language impact whether the speaker comes across as intelligent?
  • How do you believe a speaker's tone of voice impacts whether the speaker comes across as intelligent?"
Dear reader, if you read this post hoping to find out how to sound smarter when you speak, I apologize. I tricked you.

Here's what I wrote back to the journalist:

"First of all, I think a speaker 'wanting to sound intelligent' is missing the mark.

You either are intelligent or you aren't, but that's not what the audience cares about. 
The audience appreciates a speaker who exhibits confidence and speaks articulately. A speaker doesn't have to be intelligent to connect and engage with the audience. A speaker also doesn't have to be intelligent to be clear, concise and compelling. These are skills that can be learned by anyone. 
Focusing on coming across as intelligent is the wrong focus altogether, and is too much about the speaker impressing the audience vs. the speaker serving the audience.

A speaker who wants to serve the audience mostly needs to be well-prepared and have made time to practice out loud. And you could argue that being well-prepared and having rehearsed will make a speaker sound more intelligent. :-)"
I hope I didn't disappoint you if you were excited to learn how to sound smarter as a speaker. Spending your time focusing on how you're perceived rather than what value you provide to the audience is always a mistake.

Here's what speaking is NOT about:

  • Impressing people
  • Being the smartest person in the room
  • Controlling every outcome
  • Following a bunch of speaking “rules”
  • Getting a standing ovation
  • Making it about you
Now, if you'd like to really dig into this stuff about serving the audience, being clear, concise, and engaging, while connecting authentically and creating a great experience, how about joining me March 20-22 in Santa Barbara for my retreat?

This workshop is for speakers who are looking for more than a “quick fix” to get through the next presentation, and for people who are ready to up their game in a big way. Ready to stop blending in and start standing out? This retreat is for you!

The Bring-a-Friend rate expires soon and the super duper hotel room block expires over the weekend, so don't miss out! 

Are you a former or current client? Get in touch: I have a special 50% off rate for you!

January 30, 2017

What speakers can learn from comedians about language and rhythm

Comedians are some of the best teachers of language and rhythm. I've written more than 20 posts about comedians and what speakers can learn from them, and I'm constantly inspired by how creative they are with their words and delivery.

I recently came across this fantastic video that breaks down a Louis CK joke into its components and describes exactly how it's set up and what makes it funny. I agree with The Nerdwriter that Louis CK has a unique genius to his jokes, especially in how effortless and conversational they seem, while still incredibly structured.

The narrator mentions "riding a wave of feeling" at one point, and this is exactly what I teach my clients about taking their audiences on an emotional journey. Comedians' primary emotional tool is humor, but they get to humor through activating a host of other emotions: Anticipation, fear, frustration, confusion or empathy are contrasted with exaggeration, incongruous scenarios and surprise twists, leading to a humorous outcome.

Enjoy this short video, and I also suggest making time to watch the HBO special referenced within the video, "Talking Funny." More great discussion from the pros on how successful comedy works. I wrote about it here.

 Click here if unable to view on the blog.

January 21, 2017

You have a platform, but are you making it count?

Whenever a celebrity—whether actor, singer, athlete or other entertainer—takes the opportunity at an awards ceremony or other public event to speak out about a political issue, certain segments of the public immediately begin scolding and lashing out.

"It's inappropriate!" they say. "Celebrities should keep their opinions to themselves!" "We pay you to act and entertain us!"

So let me ask you this: If you had a platform where you could reach hundreds or thousands or millions of people all at once—and you had something really important to say, would you use it?

You don't think of yourself as Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes—and you're not—but I guarantee that many of you are using the platforms you DO have every day.

Are you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+ or Tumblr? Do you ever post your opinions about things (anything: food, people, music, politics, organizations, cars, football teams, Mac vs. PC...) on any of these social media channels?

Do you ever regale your friends with your ideas while you're sitting around having a drink? Do you share your ideas on a large or small scale at work, at the place you volunteer, in your committee meetings, at the dinner table? Yeah, you're using your platform.

You think it's different, that Meryl Streep went to the Golden Globes to win an award, so it's not appropriate. But you—you're just doing your thing, hanging out in your "virtual living room" on Facebook or Twitter, and everyone should expect you to say what's on your mind, right?

I just randomly scrolled through my Twitter stream to see what people were saying. Here are some of the opinions I encountered:

"Why do some people use the word feminist as an insult? A feminist is simply someone who believes that women should have equal rights to men."

"We need a lot more love songs."

"Vaccine-pushers calling for even more injections in children is chemical violence against them."

"If you're not pissing off someone you're not doing your job."

"Why Every Entrepreneur Needs to Start #Blogging Immediately"

"Need an influx of cash? Borrow from a friend or family member."

I may or may not agree with these, but the fact remains that these people are using their platforms, in this case Twitter, to share their thoughts, ideas, and beliefs.

See, we do this every day. All day. We share our opinions with the world.

Everything I say on Twitter has a chance of being seen by my 7,840 followers, plus others who don't know me who are scrolling through. Everything I say on Facebook has a chance of being seen by my 1,879 friends, plus their friends, plus others (my posts are public).

Is everything I say momentous? Nope. Is everything I say even worth your taking the time to read? Nope. Nevertheless, it's my opinion and I choose to share it, for various reasons, because I want to. Just like you do.

Your platform may be bigger than mine or smaller than mine. You may be standing in front of audiences, shooting videos, recording Facebook Live streams, leading webinars, facilitating small discussion groups or retreats. And your platform can always be bigger and more widespread, if you want it to be.

You have a platform. Don't kid yourself that you don't. Yours isn't as big as Meryl's, but you use it when you have the chance.

So knowing that you have a platform, that you can grow a platform, and that more people could be hearing what you have to say, how are you going to make the choice to be conscious about your platform?

Are you going to choose to use the platform you have wisely, thoughtfully and in an organized fashion to share your message with those who most need to hear it?

Here's a chance to make that leap from wanting to express your ideas better, more articulately, concisely and powerfully, to actually doing it, and using your platform strategically.

Join me March 20-22 in Santa Barbara, California for my 2 1/2-day retreat "Shake Up Your Speaking: Get Real... Get Results."

Stop fantasizing about having a platform for your ideas. Stop using the platforms you have in a slipshod or haphazard way. Get organized. Get clear. Be compelling.

You may not have millions to share your ideas with, but you do have an audience. Make your ideas stand out. See you in March!

Photo credit: MTSOfan The Woman With the Bull Horn via photopin (license)

January 18, 2017

Big fish or little fish... what's right for you?

It's a new year, and with a new year comes lots of marketing hyperbole. Lots of "New year, new you!" and "Step into your greatness!" kinds of posts, articles and of course, paid programs.

Every January, I feel the pressure. Do you feel the pressure? To be bigger, bolder, more recognized, more successful (on someone else's terms...)?

I feel the pressure to have big events, make big money (used to be just six figures—now I'm seeing a lot more seven figure pressure), get big name clients. I feel the pressure to get media interviews, be on magazine covers and blow my competition out of the water.

I feel the pressure for more more more more more.

And I do want more. I do want to grow my business and I do want to make more money. And I understand that the more visibility and recognition I get for my work, the more people I can reach and the more people I can serve.

I get that.

But here's the thing: If all I focus on is "more," at the expense of what I really care about and what really moves and motivates me, then it's not worth it.

I don't want "more" for the sake of "more." What I want is to serve the people who need me most, who value my coaching and training the most, and who will implement the new skills they've learned with eagerness.

I work with a lot of different kinds of clients, individual coaching clients, group coaching clients and corporate training clients. I especially love working with nonprofits, because that's the sector where I spent 16 years and even co-founded my own organization.

I know that the work people do in the nonprofit sector comes straight from a place of wanting to improve their communities, straight from the heart. Sometimes those who work or volunteer for nonprofits have personal experience with the particular cause they support.

This was the case with a group I trained in September 2016, called Lived Experience Advocacy Development (LEAD), a speakers bureau comprising clients of Transitions-Mental Health Association who have mental health diagnoses and have been homeless. The LEAD team addresses public policy organizations to advocate for projects serving homeless community members who also have mental illness.

Most recently, they have addressed the City of Santa Maria Planning Commission, Santa Maria City Council, Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, and the Santa Barbara County Mental Health Commission, among other groups, to speak out in support of a local housing project and on a statewide bill that made funds available to communities to provide supportive housing to people living with a severe mental illness and are either homeless or are at risk of homelessness.

There was so much camaraderie and conviction among the members of the group; this is not just an issue that affects someone "out there." Each of the members of LEAD is intimately acquainted with the experiences of those they now advocate for. It's a powerful feeling to listen to a speaker who is 100% fired up, committed to their message and committed to making a real impact.

One morning in December, I opened Facebook to find this post on my timeline:

This was shared by Girlie Ford, one of the members of LEAD.

I've also received notes from Cathie Ortiz, another LEAD member, who has kept me updated on their speaking engagements:
"We did it Lisa! Me n Patricia Faulkner belted it out. Youda been so proud. Man I love this feeling!!! WOOHOO!"
I know that many of my clients experience these feelings of elation with speaking success. And when they feel this way, I feel it too!

This is what makes me happy. This is what motivates me to go to work every day. This is why I do what I do.

Sometimes I get all starry-eyed watching big-name speakers on those big stages with hundreds or thousands in the audience, and I have to say, it looks pretty appealing, including a five-figure check for an hour of speaking.

But in the past 18 months or so, I've come to a realization that small workshops with committed participants are where I want to be. I have to acknowledge that this is where I shine, it's where I effect the most change, and it's what I love to do more than anything.

I love the small group coaching and training experience, watching my clients blossom, and seeing their confidence in their abilities just explode. I've been doing this for 20+ years, but it's finally sinking in that it's what I want to do, not just what I do.

The LEAD members are smart, articulate, funny, insightful, courageous, and are working really hard to nail this stuff down. Some of the group members already had speaking experience before our workshop, but one personal had literally NEVER spoken in front of an audience before our training, and I felt so privileged to be part of that moment.

What I'm saying is that I'm a small fish in a big pond, and I like it here. I could be a bigger fish, and my business is still growing. But in my pond, there are still many people who need me and who value and embrace what they gain from working with me. The people in my pond are putting learning into action, taking huge leaps of faith, and reveling in their growth.

My pond is a pretty sweet place to be. How about your pond?

December 19, 2016

Tangible examples always win

Speakers face some of their biggest challenges when it comes to presenting data. There is something about pie charts and diagrams that PowerPoint users are drawn to like moths to a flame.

However, your audience doesn't usually need the level of detail that you provide, and they are typically overwhelmed.

How can you present data in a way that gets your point across, making it concrete, while giving the audience just as much information as they need and want to know?

Use an example or a comparison to something that your audience is already familiar with. There is always a story behind data; you just have to find it.

Here's an example I found in our local weekly paper.

Click the image to see it full-size.
The number of mattresses that are sent to landfills every year is almost 2 million. But numbers that big sometimes become meaningless to our audiences. They're so vague. So this ad takes on the vagueness of a big number, and compares the hypothetical stack of mattresses to the orbit height of the International Space Station.

Now, I can't really fathom that distance either (249 miles from the earth) and you could argue that it's also vague; however, I do know that the ISS is in SPACE! And I know that space is really, really, really far away. That's enough for me to comprehend that a stack of mattresses higher than the ISS is a really, really, really high stack of mattresses.

And that is so much clearer to me than a number. 

What examples have you seen of turning numbers and data into engaging stories and examples for audiences?
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